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EFFECT OF PAUL'S DISCOURSE AT ATHENS.—
A. D. 54.
Acts xvii. 32—34.
32. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
Such was the end of that discourse which Paul addressed to the company at Athens. On the greater number it produced no permanent effect. It left them where it found them, except that it gave them more to account for.
When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. The idea of existence beyond this present world was not altogether strange to the heathens. Vague notions floated amongst them that the soul might survive, and continue to live in some new and different state. But what Paul meant by the resurrection of the dead; the resurrection of the whole man; with a body restored to him, with a consciousness of the same being which had lived, and thought, and felt, and acted, in this present world: this was entirely new to them; and when they heard of it, some mocked, and thought, no doubt, that it was enough to ask, "How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come:
And yet, had they inquired, instead of mocking, they might have found reason to see that it was not incredible that God should raise the dead. If man has been once formed—formed by the hand of a Creator—he may be formed again. God, who gave the first body, can restore " to every man his own body."1
But the seed fell by the wayside, and "the fowls of the air devoured it."
In other cases, when the seed is sown, the surface is less hard, but the event is still the same. So it proved with another class of these Athenian hearers. Others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. It was notsowith the Ethiopian, who exclaimed, "Sir, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptised V It was not so with the jailer at Philippi, who saw death on the one side and life on the other, and "at the same hour of the night was baptized, he and all his houshold, straightway." These Athenians put off the subject to a distance. We will hear thee again of this matter. Thou hast told an interesting tale. "When we have a convenient season, we will send for thee," and attend to it again. Nay, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." "To-day, if ye will year his voice, harden not your hearts." The voice which, if ye had listened to it, might have 1 • See 1 Cor. xv.
been life from the dead, if now you prove deaf to its summons, you may hear no more for ever.
33. So Paul departed from among them.
34. Howbeit, certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
The word, then, did not return altogether void. It had a purpose to perform, and it performed its purpose. Some clave unto him.3 The expression is strong. It implies that close adherence which we might expect when the soul is concerned. We may conclude that they followed Paul to his abode, and inquired more particularly into "the strange things which he had brought to their ears." Perhaps Dionysius, like Lydia at Philippi, constrained him that during the remainder of his stay at Athens he should abide at his house. The Spirit had so awakened his heart and conscience, that they responded to the things which he heard. He did not resist that feeling, and lightly dismiss the apostle till another time: but he, and Damaris, and others with them, pursued their inquiry till the seed took deep and firm root, and they believed— they became converts to the gospel of Christ.
Dionysius, we are told, was an Areopagite: a member of that council which was called after its place of meeting, Mars' Hill. To be a member of that council was to he a person of first importance. A person of such rank and station makes a greater sacrifice, if he leaves the party and the connexions to which he has belonged, than one who has fewer worldly interests to abandon. This, no doubt, was the ground of the Lord's remark, "How hardly shall they that are rich enter into the kingdom of God 1" But there was no want of such persons, as we have already seen, among those who first embraced the gospel. There were enough to show that those whose education had enabled them to form a judgment upon a matter placed before them, when they were brought to attend to the apostles, found that which they could not resist: nay, which they could not be satisfied without securing it as their own. Some mocked, others postponed; but not for want of proof, but for want of will—will to inquire, or yield to conviction.
2 KoMijOevrec dvTio, iiritrrevaav.
So Paul departed from among them: left the learned Athenians. Their learning would soon be of no avail. "Man returneth to his earth, and all his thoughts perish." But he left behind him a small but a faithful company, whose learning would not perish. They had been "made wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus." And these through endless ages shall find fresh mysteries to look into, fresh wisdom to adore.
PAUL PREACHES THE GOSPEL AT CORINTH—
A. d. 54.
Acts xviii. 1—8.
1. After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2. And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla ,•1 (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome;) and came unto them.
3. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: (for by their occupation they were tentmakers :)
4. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
If Paul had not been born a Jew, he would have had no trade, no craft, to which he might resort on occasions like the present. He was of that station in life which in other countries is exempt from manual labour. But by the custom prevailing among the Jews, all their youth were instructed in some handicraft trade: and now, rather than be a burthen to Aquila, he wrought with him in his occupation as a tent-maker. And not now only.
1 Of whom further mention is made, Rom. xvi. 1, and 1 Cor. xvi. 19.